Stephane San Juan
Drummer, Percussionist, Singer/Composer, Producer, Educator.
Stéphane comes from a rich cultural background that set the backdrop for his
multi- cultural path in music, his father, of Spanish descent, was born and raised
in Algeria and his mother of German-Italian background, was born in Vietnam
then raised in Madagascar. Stéphane grew up in Montpellier, France. He began
his career as a drummer/ percussionist with local bands like Black and White
Gospel Singers, Général Alcazar and Zwap.
In 1995 Stéphane made London his permanent home, where he worked with
artists such as Andy Sheppard, Sibongile Khumalo and Tyrone Downie. Meanwhile in Paris joined the band of Malian duo Amadou & Mariam, whom he recorded and toured with from 1997 until 2004, including on their successful album “Dimanche a Bamako” (produced by Manu Chao and nominated at the Grammy Award 2005). In the year 2000 Stéphane met Kassin, Moreno Veloso & Domenico Lancellotti who he later joined in the band the +2’s (Luaka Bop). Stéphane relocated to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2002 where he became a member of the gafieira Big Band, Orquestra Imperial, formed the bands Os Ritmistas with Dany Roland and Domenico and most recently Cometa. In Brazil, he has worked with many brazilian artists like Adriana Calcanhotto, Arlindo Cruz, Bebel Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Elza Soares, Erasmo Carlos, João Donato, Jorge Mautner, Marcos Valle, Maria Gadu, Martn’alia, Seu Jorge, Tulipa Ruiz, Vanessa da Mata, Wilson Das Neves, Zé Manoel and more; with arrangers like Alberto Continentino, Arthur Verocai, Eumir Déodato, and international artists like Bernard Purdie, Gilles Peterson, José Gonzales, Manu Dibango, On Fillmore (Darin Gray & Glenn Kotche).
In 2009 he created and directed the “Gainsbourg Imperial” project at Sesc Pinheiros theater (São Paulo), for the year of France in Brazil, two tribute shows to Serge Gainsbourg with the Orquestra Imperial arranged and conducted by Jean Claude Vannier, with special guests Jane Birkin and Caetano Veloso; the performance won the “Bravo Award” for best show in 2009. Stéphane also co-directed the documentary which was nominated at FIPA 2010 (European Emmy Awards) in live arts category.
In 2014, Stéphane released his first solo project as a singer/ composer/ songwriter,”Système de Son”. Recorded in Rio, London, and Montpellier; mixed by Mario Caldato Jr. and mastered by Robert Carranza in Los Angeles. On the album, he collaborates with the likes of composers Alberto Continentino, Sean O’Hagan, Gustavo Ruiz, and his mentor Wilson Das Neves. Released in Japan by Coreport label, the album got great reviews in latin music and jazz magazines like Latina, Intoxicate and CD journal, and also appeared on best album list 2014 including “Rolling Stone Brasil” and “Billboard Brasil“. The album release tour passed through cities like Rio de Janeiro ( Sergio Porto and Oi Futuro Ipanema theaters), São Paulo (Sesc Pompeia and Sesc Campinas theaters), Belo Horizonte (Marilia theater), Florianopolis (Celula Club), was part of the Festival Francophonie 2015 official program, Montreux Jazz Rio 2016 (Fasano) and the official program of Rio’s 2016 Olympics. The concerts’s repertoire included originals from the album as well as new songs and versions in french of samba songs like “O dia em que o Morro Descer e não for Carnaval” (Paulo César Pinheiro/Wilson das Neves) and a portuguese version of “Rue de Mes Souvenirs” (Stephane San Juan/Wilson das Neves) written by Chico Buarque.
In 2017, Stéphane moved to New York where he toured with On Fillmore for the release of the album which he co-wrote “Happiness of Living” (Northern Spy Records) in prestigious festivals like Wilco‘s Solid Sound, then joined Bernard Purdie and Friends as a percussionist with whom he recorded the album “Cool Down” (Sugar Road Records), collaborated with Yuka Honda (Beastie Boys, Cibo Matto) for the premiere of the show of art and haute cuisine Epicurean Nights, played with Ilhan Ersahin with whom he produced several solo concerts as well as Nublu Sessions with Ilhan on sax and bassist Josh Werner (Lee Scratch Perry, Robert Glasper, Wu Tang Clan), I led 3 Lives with Joonie Booth (Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Sun-Ra) and African artists like Yacouba Sissoko (Harry Belafonte, Lauryn Hill) at Ilhan’s new club club, Nublu 151.
Stephane also produced Tulipa Ruiz‘s “Tu” album (One Rpm) at Scotty Hard‘s Studios, curated and directed “Multiplicidade”, the opening night show of the 2018 Season 3 of The National Sawdust, defined by the New York Times as the city’s most exciting new venue, inviting artists such as Jeffrey Zeigler (John Zorn, Kronos Quartet), Magos Herrera, Mauro Refosco (Atoms for Peace, Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Melvin Gibbs (Defunkt, Rollins Band), Michael Leonhart (James Brown , Steely Dan), Vitor Gonçalvés (Hermeto Pascoal) and Vernon Reid (Living Color, Mick Jagger, Santana) to play a repertoire of songs by Abdullah Ibrahim, Mongo Santamaria, Tom Jobim and songs from Stephane’s new album “Saved by the Drums”.
Recorded in Rio and New York, mixed by Scotty Hard and mastered by Mike Fossenkemper in New York, “Saved by the Drums” features special guests Guto Wirtti, Jeffrey Ziegler, Michael Leonhart, Rogê, Ze Manoel and the late Wilson das Neves, his spiritual father to whom the album is dedicated. The LP is distributed worldwide by Silene Records and digitally by Buda Music.
In 2018 Stephane joined David Byrne ‘s American Utopia world tour which was qualified by NME “…The best live show of all times”, the show was on Broadway at the Hudson Theater from October 2019 until mid-February 2020. The show was awarded by the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Boston’s Elliot Norton Award and New York Times Critics’s Pick.
In September 2020, Stéphane released a few singles and an album of his own New York based trio called Stéphane San Juan & Sambacool, featuring Vitor Gonçalves on piano and Eduardo Belo on bass, the album got a great response from world radios, playlists and podcasts, for example Louis Michaud/Club Jazz FIP (France), Gilles Peterson/BBC 6 (UK), Worldwide Fm, Andrew Jervis/Bandcamp Weekly (USA), Dom Servini/Sounds and Colors (UK), Pedro Montenegro/Soho Radio (UK), Rai Uno (Italy), Jin Nakahara/J-Wave (Japan), Mike Gurrieri/PSBFM (Australia) and many more. A second album is due to release early 2022.
The film David Byrne’s American Utopia on Broadway produced by HBO and directed by Spike Lee premiered at the Toronto Film Festival 2020, then at the New York Film Festival. It was released on HBO max on October 17th 2020 and won 2 Emmy Awards out of 6 Nominations.
The show is currently reopened at the St James Theater since September 17th 2021 and will go on for 40 weeks. David Byrne and cast received a Special Tony Award 2021 and performed at the ceremony transmitted live on CBS.